What is the difference between blame and accountability in leadership?

Often these two things are either used interchangeably or confused altogether. We know that we are all responsible for what we do, and that we can trace results or lack of them to what we do when we work together.

But people react differently depending on how a leader describes and handles behavior and performance, and your team or business reflects that in productivity, profitability and employee engagement.

Mike, Shaun and David discuss three different perspectives on the difference between blame and accountability and how a leader can differentiate between the two with his or her team.

Positions

Mike: Both are similar on paper, but how they are delivered and the motive behind them is what makes the difference – is it moving you to successful outcomes or away from them?

Shaun: Solution based cultures look at the problem and not the person.

David: Blame is expensive, and accountability is profitable.

Quotable

MM: “You can only hold someone accountable to a standard that they are aware of.”

MM: “The whole aim of accountability is to keep people and processes in line to achieve a certain outcome.”

SP: “A lot of times blame is emotional and reactive. It’s a coping mechanism for insecurity.”

SP: “It’s easier to blame because it’s an easier conversation. It’s emotional and downhill.”

DF: “Imagine that the default is when you or someone else makes a mistake, everyone gets together and says, let’s put our heads together and figure this out.”

DF: “If you’re in a leadership position, really examine the language that you use, that you allow, and that you discourage, because that affects how your team operates.”

What can a leader do about being isolated?

When you’re a leader, you get fewer inputs from the people around you because “you’re the boss,” and fewer of those inputs you do get are honest, so fewer are actually that useful.

There isn’t the shared suffering and connection that there is in the less isolated ranks, and to be blunt, work gets a little lonely.

When you get lonely, your perspective shifts, and that can affect the decisions that you make, especially if you are not getting the complete story from employees who are not fully inclined to be completely honest with you. (We can call this – in the end of 2022 – the “Putin Effect.”)

There’s two effects of isolation on a leader: emotional, which is difficult personally, and then there’s the practical, that your choices may not be as good as they could be if you were fully informed.

Our positions:

Mike: Connecting work to charitable and getting off social media can help, although isolation is inevitable.

Shaun: Most of us would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.

David: Isolation can be mitigated by intentionally maintaining and creating relationships with those around you who are good for you.

Quotable:

MM: “In some ways it’s unavoidable, you’re never going to spend 10 years as a CEO and say you never felt alone. That’s never going to happen.”

MM: “You find something that is good for you to do, but you also find something that is good for the team to do, it’s both.”

MM: “A lot of isolation is fueled by a lack of trust.”

SP: “When you take a position of leadership, you almost always take your significant other with you into that position, because you can’t have all the significant discussions you need to have inside the building.”

SP: “Your introspection as a leader needs to be off the charts.”

SP: “You have a great employee when they are honest with you, not just tell you what you want to hear.”

DF: “Employees often default to answering ‘great’ or ‘fine’ to almost every question a boss will ask and real human connection is based on something based in truth.”

DF: “You have to go out of your way and demonstrate that you’re honest and demonstrate that you value someone’s feedback, even when the feedback isn’t in the end valuable. It’s truly the connection that is valuable.”

What is the role of forgiveness in leadership?

We know that forgiveness is supposed to be a good thing for us personally, we learn “forgive and forget” when we are young, and maybe some of us have been through that.

But what about when you are a leader in business – how does forgiveness affect your leadership and your business results?

In this episode, we each comment on this question, touching on missed opportunities, the power of example and modeling, the cost of not forgiving others and yourself, and how forgiveness looks to others.

As with previous shows, each of us describes our position and the other two field questions and comments.

Our Opening Positions:

Mike: “Forgiveness is a necessary part of being happy.”

Shaun: “The challenge that trips leaders up is that forgiveness is weakness, its not – forgiveness is strength.”

David: “Leaders need to focus on forgiving themselves as much as forgiving others.”

Quotable:

MM: “That’s what we are talking about – isolating incidents, being able to forgive and not let them bleed into everything else.”

MM: “My grandmother’s voicemail message says that forgiveness is the key to happiness.”

MM: “There are all these things in life that can weigh you down and slow you down, if you are focused on how people have wronged you, you miss so many opportunities.”

SP: “Forgiving people is forgiving people who put their best foot forward. It’s not realistic to think that every single one of our employees is going to throw a no-hitter every single day.

SP: “Forgiveness is what enables people to keep showing up and making their best effort.”

SP: “Forgiveness fosters risk-taking.”

DF: “With more forgiveness, people have more creativity, more running room and they come up with better answers, and that just increases productivity.”

DF: “We’ve talked about all the ways that things can go sideways when you don’t forgive other people, but when you don’t forgive yourself, all those things still happen, they just all happen inside you.”

DF: “Leaders don’t think that it’s right to forgive themselves, they say things like ‘I should have known better’ but the people who work with you can tell that you don’t forgive, and that affects them and they imitate you.”

DF: “Whatever cognitive power you’re using to obsess about past failures, that’s power that you can’t use to figure out what you’re doing, to come up with new ideas and solutions.”

Have you ever wondered about the happiness and fulfillment that comes from being a leader? Most of what we talk about here and most of what. you find in leadership guidance and coaching is how to deal with the problems and challenges of being a leader.

This is natural and really just a fact of life. There are only garages for broken cars, and most doctors in Western medicine only treat people with health problems.

But Mike, Shaun and I have talked about the positive parts of leadership guidance completely missing in today’s world. While this may be true for many messages in the media in general, we are going to start to add positive commentary to the mix.

Spoiler alert: the positives aren’t in getting a company car, the right to talk over someone in a meeting without repercussion or a raise. Undoubtably some of the life benefits of being a leader are real, but we will discuss the meaningful aspect.

Our answers to the question:

MM: “Happiness in leadership comes from focusing on the process, not the outcome.”

SP: “Leaders will find happiness in the place that they least expect it.”

DF: “Happiness comes by voluntarily and intentionally taking responsibility to help those people around you.”

Quotable:

MM: A bad process is one that is singularly focused on we have to chase this one thing.

MM: “How can you really be successful at something when you don’t actually enjoy what you do?”

SP: “Purpose is the precursor to happiness, and your purpose can’t be just this number in this quarter.”

SP: “We all want to get to that big moment, but that moment is years in the making.”

SP: “If you have purpose in your life, you have a chance at happiness. If you don’t have purpose, you have no chance.”

DF: “The best way I can describe what type of responsibility that gives happiness in addition to the hard deadlines of business is that you know, you know the things that you can do. Look at the people around you and figure out what you can do that would be helpful to them.”

DF: “As a leader, you probably have a fairly good idea of what you can do and how to do that, so start there and do that.”

What place does humility have in leadership?

This week we discuss three different viewpoints on what humility means to leadership, how it affects a leader’s outcome and what can go wrong with it.

Each of has a different view on the question:

Positions:

Mike: “It’s impossible to grow and mature as a leader without humility.”

Shaun: “There’s a very fine line between humility and imposter syndrome in leadership”

David: “It’s valuable for a leader to realize that humility and confidence are not opposites.”

Quotable:

MM: “Without a leader being able to go to someone and ask for help, I just can’t see a way forward.”

MM: “Why is it so easy to lack self-awareness and be overconfident?”

SP: “Humility is the thing that allows you to think that maybe you’re wrong.”

DF: “If you surround yourself with people who have to do what you say, you can have a little pod of blissful ignorance that you can stay in for quite a long time. That’s not good.”

SP: “Humility isn’t something that shows up on your Whoop or your Garmin.”

DF: “Humility gives you the ability to model accpetance, collaboration and teamwork, but also the after effects of doing those things.”

Do you need a title to be a leader?

Many people often don’t have the formal power as a leader and wonder what they can do to help themselves, help others, or make the business better. Others have a title, but may struggle with having enough influence to make progress.

Our new format: each of us takes a position on our topic, discusses it, and takes questions from the other two.

It works well, and we hope you like it.

Our positions:

Mike: “Titles can be a blessing or a curse, a multiplier or divider.”

Shaun: “Never lead with your title, let others discover your achievement.”

David: “The unofficial org chart determines how well your business performs just as much as the official org chart.”

Quotable:

MM: “Titles can be curse if you think ‘I’ve made it’ and I don’t have to do those things that got me here.”

MM: “The higher the title you have the more opportunity you have to help people.”

SP: “If you are tethered to a title and that title gets taken away, it can wipe out your whole identity.”

SP: “I think there’s so much magic when a person in position of power doesn’t lead with that power, but leads with kindness or how they can help you.”

DF: “When you get a promotion, you’re necessarily agreeing to work with more difficult problems than you had at your previous job.”

DF: “Knowing the combination of what you can do officially in a practical senses and unofficially will help you the most and it will help the people around you the most.”

Our culture often says that leaders should be the smartest person in the room – any room. This puts a lot of pressure on a leader to not hire someone who is smarter or more skilled in certain ways.

To do so is a mistake, for the employee, the leader, and the business.

David, Shaun and Mike discuss what stands in the way of making the best hiring decision, how to deal with those things, and why hiring the best person for the job isn’t a threat to a leader’s position.

Quotable:

SP: “Great leadership doesn’t mean you have to be the best trumpet player, the best flute player, or the best at the drums, it means you’re the conductor.”

DF: “Who you hire has a massive effect on company culture, and we all know that you can’t execute a great idea with bad culture.”

MM: “One of the stories we tell ourselves is that if I hire someone who is smarter than I am, I’ll lose my position, look bad, or lose my authority. That’s just not true.”

Uncertain times increases the amount of stress a leader feels, and creates new challenges virtually every day.

The recent pandemic and the threat of economic uncertainty creates an environment for leaders that will require adaptability, patience, and understanding.

David, Shaun and Mike discuss ways to deal with uncertainty, how to help yourself and help those around you when times are unsteady.

Quotable:

SP: “Sometimes as leaders we have information that we think is trivial but it’s not.”

MM: “You need to adjust some goals but not adjust your standards.”

DF: “It’s the feeling that there might be more that you don’t know in times of uncertainty that really affect us.”

Leaders often have predetermined reactions to an employee’s failure, request for change, or uncommon success, and many of those reactions weaken the business and the relationships in them.

Mike, Shaun and David discuss how leaders’ reactions and behavior with employees greatly influence an employee’s productivity and satisfaction at work, and how a leader can improve the team’s performance by remaining connected and human during an employee’s time of need.

Quotable:

DF: “As a leader, try as hard as you can not to confuse acceptance and support with agreement and punishment.”

MM: “We have a responsibility as leaders to help our teams focus, and sometimes that means the heats on us.”

SP: “More often than not we default to letting our emotions take us in the wrong direction and look that the person instead of the problem, even when the problem was out of their control.”

DF: “I’m here to not just tell you that you failed, but why, and I’m here to help you figure out how to do it better next time. I’m going to stand by you, and we are going to figure this out together.”

MM: “There’s responsibility that needs to be completely owned by the individual.”

SP: “Great leadership is holding someone responsible but shielding them from the unnecessary stuff.”

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How does a leader communicate expectations successfully?

We could all do a better job communicating expectations, and as leaders, those expectations are critical.

Mike, Shaun and David discuss the critical role of expectations in leadership, where they go wrong, how we communicate them unintentionally, unsuccessfully and what melting ice caps have to do with them.

Quotable Quotes:

SP: “The second distrust creeps into the organization, its slows the whole thing down.”

MM: “Good expectations bring unity, clarity, alignment, and focus.”

DF: “A big piece of good expectations are clear and well-coordinated job descriptions.

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